Utah man says he made and delivered pizza to Michael Jordan, was Bulls fan

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Michael Jordan blamed food poisoning from tainted pizza for his illness during Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals, better known as the flu game. Jordan’s trainer, Tim Grover, has repeatedly said five guys suspiciously delivered the pizza. Jordan’s personal assistant, George Koehler, corroborated that story in “The Last Dance” documentary.

Craig Fite has a different account.

In a fascinating interview on 1280 The Zone, the Utah man said he made and delivered the pizza and even took extra care in making it – in part because he was a Bulls fan.

Fite said he was assistant manager at the Park City Pizza Hut when the restaurant received a delivery order for the hotel where the Bulls were staying. Fite said someone pieced together the order might be for someone with the team. That intrigued Fite, who said he was known around the restaurant as a Bulls fan among Jazz fans.

Fite:

I was like, “Hey, I will make the pizza.” And I remember saying this: “I will make the pizza, because I don’t want any of you doing anything to it.” And then I said, I told the driver, “You’re going to take me there. It’ll be my first delivery.”

That pizza was made well. I followed all the rules. Heck, I was – at the time, I was so busy trying to impress to become the store manager there, I followed all the rules.

I said, “Let me wash my hands. I’m going to make this pizza.” Because I wasn’t on the table. Then, after that, for months after that – I was working there still – everyone was like, “Whatever you do, don’t wash your hands. You’ll get someone sick.” It was kind of a running gag.

Fite said he prepared the large thin-crust extra-pepperoni pie then possessed it the entire time, including passing through security as he and the driver entered the hotel. He said they took the elevator to the Bulls’ floor.

Fite:

As soon as that door opened, it felt like you got punched in the face with cigar smoke.

Someone got excited seeing the pizza, Fite said. But when Fite informed the person of the room number for delivery, the inquirer backed off and said the pizza was for Jordan.

Fite said he knocked on the door, and “This great guy who’s been saying all this crap lately” cracked it open. The door opener (presumably Grover or Koehler) paid and tipped.

Fite:

“I’m handing him the pizza, and I said, “Hey, can I at least say hi to Mike?” Why not? It’s my one shot, right? And the door kind of opens up a little bit more. Mike is sitting in the room, sitting at the chair. He’s playing cards or whatever and raises his hand and says, “Thanks, man.” And then the guy looked at me and shut the door. And that’s the extent of the whole story.

Fite insists only he and the driver – two people – delivered the pizza. To give Grover and Koehler the benefit of the doubt, perhaps others passing in the hallway behind Fite and the driver stopped to get a peak of Jordan. Maybe Grover and Koehler mistook others for deliverymen.

Considering the store closed at 11 p.m., Fite said he delivered the pizza at about 10 or 10:30 p.m.

That’d poke another hole in the most sordid rumors – that Jordan flew to Las Vegas or partied late at Robert Redford’s chateau the night before Game 5. Sure, it’s possible Jordan was hungover the next day. But placing him in his hotel room at 10 or 10:30 reduces possibilities.

Which brings us back to food poisoning.

Fite:

Of course, when this whole thing happened, I got called by the district manager, “OK, if one guy got sick, how many others are we going to have to deal with?” And there were no other reports. Nobody else got sick. In fact, later on, a few years later, I had talked to a few people that had gotten pizza that night, too. And who knows much truth is in it? But they’re like, “No, it was fine.”

Ultimately, that’s the issue: “Who knows much truth is in it?” Everyone is sharing impossible-to-prove stories from many years ago. People can misremember or even fabricate.

What we know: Jordan looked ill, played great anyway and led the Bulls to a win then championship. However he got sick, it’s still an incredible accomplishment.

Suns, Crowder agree he will sit out training camp while they seek a trade

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Jae Crowder wants out of Phoenix and the Suns have been looking for a trade to accommodate that.

It hasn’t come together, so the Suns and Crowder agreed he should sit out training camp while they find one (this team does not need another distraction in camp).

We knew this was coming because Crowder himself announced it a couple of days ago. While he deleted the Tweet, nothing ever completely disappears online.

Two quick thoughts on this news.

First, it means Cameron Johnson will start at the four, something that was likely anyway as the Suns look to add shooting to help space the floor.

Second, this news does not help the Suns’ leverage in getting a trade. It’s understandable that Crowder didn’t want to be in camp and that the Suns didn’t want the distraction, but now everyone knows the pressure on the Suns to get a deal done and they will lowball their offer.

There are a few potential landing spots out there. Crowder hinted online he would welcome a return to Miami, and the Heat need help at the four after P.J. Tucker left for Philly. The Heat would base a trade around Duncan Robinson, but to make the salaries match the Suns would have to throw in another player — Dario Saric, Landry Shamet, Cameron Payne, Torey Craig or after Jan. 15  — and that seems unlikely.

Atlanta, Dallas, Chicago, Boston (but it’s tough to make the salaries match up), and even a team like Minnesota could work. The challenge is the Suns are a win-now team and will want a player who can help them this season and all those teams are in the same space. Right now there may not be an offer available. As camps open and teams start to understand what they do and don’t have, a deal could come together.

Crowder will be home waiting for that to happen, not with the Suns team.

Giannis Antetokounmpo says Stephen Curry is the best player in the world

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Giannis Antetokounmpo is at the top of pretty much every “best player in the world” list right now.

Except his own.

For Antetokounmpo, the best player in the world is the one that leads his team to the title, so today, it is Stephen Curry (hat tip to Lance Allen of NBC Milwaukee).

It’s easy to see where Antetokounmpo is coming from, but basketball is a team game. The best player may not be on the best team, despite his skill set, and that team may not win. Curry was spectacular in leading the Warriors to their fourth banner since he arrived, he’s near the top of the best in the world list, but it’s not all about winning.

The takeaway from what Antetokounmpo said is how much he wants to win — he wants a second ring.

The Bucks enter the season as one of the favorites to win that ring, but it’s going to take a lot of things going right for that to happen.

Including Antetokounmpo showing he is the best player in the world.

 

Is Matisse Thybulle ready for a big step forward with 76ers?

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Matisse Thybulle brings a valuable NBA skill to the table — he is an elite perimeter defender. Two-time All-Defensive Team in three years in the league.

But when the 76ers got up against Miami in the playoffs, Thybulle’s role shrank dramatically. While Doc Rivers needed his defense, Thybulle’s lack of an offensive game became a problem — the Heat largely ignored him and helped off him, allowing Miami to muck up the Philly offense (he was limited in the Toronto series because he was not vaccinated and could not play in road games). The 76ers tried to solve that problem this offseason by bringing in DeAnthony Melton, Danuel House and P.J. Tucker — solid role-playing defenders who can contribute on offense, too.

Thybulle wants to be part of the solution, too, and told Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer he spent the summer focused on his offensive game.

“I’m really proud of what I did,” Thybulle said of his offseason. “I’ve worked harder than I’ve worked. And I had a meeting with [Sixers coach Doc Rivers] early this week and was telling him I feel more bought in than I’ve been before.”

No doubt Thybulle put in the work, we will find out soon if it paid off — and if that will get Thybulle paid.

Thybulle is entering a contract year — the 76ers can extend him up until Oct. 18, after which he would become a restricted free agent next summer. Thybulle said his goal is to remain in Philadelphia (and he’d like an extension).

“At this point, I would always want to stay in Philly,” he said. “And if it’s up to me, that’s always going to be my choice.

“But considering that I’ve realized the reality of how far out of my control it is, if I do get traded or something does end up happening, I can look at myself in the mirror at the end of the day.”

With a win-now Sixers team, Daryl Morey may be in a wait-and-see place with Thybulle, letting the market set his price next offseason. If he signs now, it will likely be on a team-friendly deal (but maybe one that still works for the 25-year-old).

If Thybulle gets on the court this season and shows an improved offensive game, one where he can make teams pay for helping off him, his price goes up and there may be multiple teams bidding for his services next summer. And Doc Rivers would be happy in the short term.

It’s up to Thybulle to prove it now.

 

Markelle Fultz will miss start of training camp, at least, with broken toe

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The basketball gods continue to turn their backs on Markelle Fultz.

A torn ACL had limited him to 26 games over the past two seasons, but he was healthy and ramping up to a larger role this season with a young and interesting Magic team. Then came the news he fractured his left big toe during a training session. As a result, he will be out for at least the start of training camp, the team announced. From the official announcement:

“He has been placed in a walking boot and his return to play will depend on how he responds to rehabilitation and treatment. Fultz suffered the injury during a preseason workout prior to returning to Orlando and imaging confirmed the fracture.

He will not need surgery, according to the team.

Fultz was set to split point guard duties with Cole Anthony, this injury means RJ Hampton could see more run at the point for now. Fultz should be able to return either during the end of the preseason or early in the season.

Fultz was the No.1 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft but never found his footing with the 76ers (in part due to injury). However, since getting out of that spotlight and allowed to develop in Orlando he’s been a solid rotation point guard when healthy. Last season in 18 games he averaged 10.8 points and 5.5 assists a game, and while he’s still not an efficient shooter he can run a team.

How Anthony and, eventually, Fultz will work off the ball as rookie Paolo Banchero gets the opportunity to create more offense will be just one of the interesting things to watch with this Magic team this year. We’ll have to wait a little while to see Fultz.